The Four F’s of a Successful Concept & Prototype Phase

What are the odds your new product will be on the market in two years?

A report from Nielsen showed that new products generally have only a 10% chance of succeeding. Booz & Allen puts the new product failure rate at 66% and Doblin Group says a whopping 96% of innovations fail to return ROI.

The natural next questions then is why are so many new products failing and what can I do to avoid being part of these statistics?

In the majority of cases, product failure can be attributed to the work (or lack of work) done in the early stages of the product lifecycle. In an earlier post, we talked about a strategic approach to effective ideation – the first stage of the product lifecycle. But here, we are going to tackle the Concept and Prototype Stage, the crucial step following ideation. The key outcome of the Concept and Prototype Stage is to analyze and refine your product concept to reduce your risk of failure and ensure that you are moving forward into development with an adoptable product solution.

As a product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions provider, our clients talk to us about designing, developing and launching products every day. The problem is that the focus is so heavily on the development and launch of a product that they postpone talking about (or even executing) on the upfront work that can ultimately aid in the product’s future success.

In our experience, we know that to be successful at launch, you need to nail down the details of your product’s form, fit, function and feasibility – the “Four F’s” of successful concept and prototyping. By making sure your product is meeting stakeholders’ needs in all of these areas, you can better ensure a successful product launch and beyond.

FORM: Aesthetics are just as important as technology.

U.S. Based Defense Company

Beacon EmbeddedWorks – a Compass Electronics Solutions company, helped this customer create a soldier communication and tracking device. Size and weight of the device were the biggest restrictions as soldiers already carry gear that typically weighs 60 to 100 pounds. To promote user adoption of the device from the start, Compass Electronics Solutions tested several concepts with users to determine the ideal size, weight and body placement.

As a result, Beacon EmbeddedWorks and the client designed and developed a wrist-worn device, leveraging the latest technology to promote a small form factor. By getting to know the target users’ job task and work environment, we were able to help the client deploy an effective communication device that was easily adopted by soldiers stationed all over the world.

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FIT: Your product needs to fit seamlessly into user’s lives and improve them, too.

Global Heating & Air Conditioning Company

This client came to Beacon EmbeddedWorks to update their building climate control systems with smart technology. Initial work in the Concept and Prototype Stage revealed that the new smart control panel would be used in varying harsh environments; most notably used in the chiller plant of an industrial building.

As a result, the Beacon EmbeddedWorks team developed concepts that would tolerate harsh environments, but also be easy to use for those interacting with the control panel. The final design was a durable enclosure that meets IP56 environmental protection standards and an ergonomic arm that allows the control panel to be viewed from various heights and angles. An LCD screen displays all necessary operator controls, giving the operator a more user-friendly experience and provides immediate visibility into the performance of the system.

Configuration studies completed during the Concept & Prototype Stage helped the client deliver a product that fit the needs of today’s building managers.

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FUNCTION: If users can’t quickly understand how to use your product, it’s toast.

Global Medical Device & Solutions Company

This client developed a digital patient management device to collect information from patients’ pacemakers freeing them from frequent visits to the doctor. Patients, however, found the device difficult to set up and use.

Turning to us for help, Compass Electronics Solutions generated a variety of design concepts to test functionality of the device with real users to optimize displays, buttons, iconography, packaging and communication. The final product design and concept eliminated many of the barriers to adoption and delivered a quality user experience for patients to enable adoption of the product worldwide.

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FEASIBILITY: Just because your product is innovative, doesn’t mean there’s a market for it.

Recreational Fitness Company

Compass Electronics Solutions was chosen as a complete product lifecycle partner for the development of a device to help athletes track performance metrics. By tracking athletes’ precise location, distance, force and more the device could help athletes improve their game.

During the Concept & Prototype Stage of the lifecycle, the client and Compass Electronics Solutions determined the market conditions were not ideal for this product launch. After delaying work for over six months, the client came back to complete development and launch the product. By delaying the launch, the client was able to introduce their product in better market conditions and during peak time to help ensure success.   

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Some products are created in the philosophy “If I build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, in today’s market, that philosophy is a recipe for disaster. Companies that have success launching products today are those that put in the hard work up front in the early stages of the product lifecycle to ensure that the form, fit, function and feasibility of the product are not only what users and consumers need, but want.

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